The Marlowe Society
31 January 2011

Hoffman Prize Winners Announced

Society Member Donna Murphy Shares 2010 Prize

In December, the King's School, Canterbury announced that Marlowe Society member Donna Murphy had been jointly awarded the annual Hoffman Prize. The two winners of the twenty-first Calvin & Rose G Hoffman Prize for a distinguished publication on Christopher Marlowe were:

Donna Murphy's prize-winning essay attempts to provide linguistic evidence for the authorship by Christopher Marlowe of certain anonymous Elizabethan plays. Donna explains that her analysis "employs a new technique involving Matches and Near Matches. Matches are word juxtapositions occurring no more than once elsewhere within forty years of the works in question in the searchable Early English Books Online (EEBO) database, while Near Matches are those occurring no more than fifteen other times within searchable EEBO's over 20,000 records."1

Despite winning the Prize, Donna has no immediate plans to publish her essay. Rather she sees it as a work in progress. "I hope to publish some of my findings in the next few years," she explains, "but not until I've undertaken further linguistic investigation of Thomas Nashe."

The Hoffman Prize was again adjudicated this year by Professor Park Honan, Emeritus Professor of English and American Literature at Leeds University and author of one the best biographies written about our playwright: Christopher Marlowe: Poet and Spy (2005).

The prize itself was established as a bequest by Calvin Hoffman, author of the 1955 book The Murder of the Man Who Was Shakespeare, which posited that Marlowe's death in Deptford in 1593 was in fact faked, and that he rather went on to write the works now attributed to Shakespeare. A substantial Trust Fund was set up that will be awarded to anybody who can produce "irrefutable" evidence that Marlowe was the real author.

In the meantime, an annual prize is also awarded for the essay that "most convincingly, authoritatively and informatively examines and discusses the life and works of Christopher Marlowe, and the authorship of the plays and poems now commonly attributed to Shakespeare". Both prizes are administered by the King's School, who appoint an appropriate adjudicator each year to make the judgement.

In 2007, one of the joint winners was another Marlowe Society member Peter Farey, and previous winners have also included Prof. Hopkins herself (in 1994), Prof. James Shapiro (Columbia University, also 1994), Prof. Jonathan Bate (University of Liverpool, 1995), Prof. David Riggs (Stanford University, 1998), and Prof. Michael Hattaway (University of Sheffield, 2001).